Twenty-two Texas Democrats who fled the state rather than face a special legislative session say they are certain their civil rights were violated when Texas officials tried to force them to do their jobs.
The wide-ranging lawsuit, filed Friday in federal court in Austin, claims that Gov. Greg Abbott and other Texas officials violated the rights of Democratic lawmakers when they called for the arrest of members who returned to the state as a means to force them to enter the state House chambers.
To date, one warrant has been issued.
Democrats left rather than face an election integrity bill they oppose. By leaving the state, they denied the state the ability to summon them to a session. Their absence prevents any legislation from moving forward because there is no quorum, according to the Texas Tribune.
The suit says Democrats who have been living in four-star hotels in Washington, D.C., were “deprived of liberty for substantial periods of time, suffered much anxiety and distress over separation from their families, and much discomfort and embarrassment.”
Two members of the group reportedly took a vacation in Portugal during the tine covered by the special session, which ended last week as a new one began.
The lawsuit claims there were “retaliatory attacks, threats and attempts at coercion relating to the exercise of their First Amendment rights” against the Democrats, but it did not list specific examples.
Not much sympathy flowed on Twitter.
— RI Tea Party (@riteaparty) August 8, 2021
— Sonny Gardner (@Sonny_Lee69) August 8, 2021
Your Texas taxpayers dollars at work ….
202689522 runaway Texas House Democrats file lawsuit alleging ‘anxiety and distress over the separation from their families’ https://t.co/jjqcHV8Lly
— Carla McKee (@CarlaMcKee12) August 8, 2021
The lawsuit says the attempt by Texas Republicans to force Democrats back into the state impacted issues, including race “in that certain Plaintiffs are either black or white” and color “in that certain Plaintiffs are distinguishable based upon the melanin in their skin.”
The suit does not explain the basis for those claims.
The suit says Republicans acted under the “color of law” to cause harm but does not claim harm was caused by anything other than “public statements.”
State Democratic legislators Shawn Thierry and Nicole Collier later said they had not lent their names to the suit, which seeks $5 in actual damages and $10 in punitive damages.
The special session the Democrats fled ended, but a new one that will last for 30 days began Saturday. The session came to a quick end because of the Democrats’ absence, according to the Tribune.
I'm convening a second special session on 8/7.
The #txlege must finish the work that was started.
I'll call special session after special session to reform our broken bail system, uphold election integrity, & pass other items Texans demand & deserve. https://t.co/EXoHBR0JTg
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) August 5, 2021
Republican state Rep. Jeff Leach noted the division in the legislative body when he delivered his innovation Saturday, according to the Texas Tribune.
“God, we’re staring right now at a raging ocean of division and hostility in this chamber,” he said. “Lord, there are relationships that are shattered, cords of trust that have been broken, but you Lord bring the dead to life, and what is broken you restore.”
Story cited here.